As Senator Deb Peters explained during Senate debate Tuesday (see SDPB video, timestamp 2:21:00), HB 1184 allows vo-techs to respond more quickly to the demands of business interests. In other words, if business leaders tell the new vo-tech governing board they want fewer business teachers and more welding teachers, the vo-techs don’t have to wait until those gosh-darned collectively bargained contracts run out; they can can teachers and hire the new staff business wants.
Senator Troy Heinert tried to amend HB 1184 to at least let the custodial and maintenance staff unionize. After all, are business leaders really going to contend that they need to be able to demand the immediate breaking of groundskeepers’ contracts to satisfy Main Street’s immediate market demands?
Maybe. Senator Peters simply urged the body to resist the amendment, and they did, and then stripped all vo-tech employees of collective bargaining rights on a 27–8 vote.
Direct Support Employees and Medical Assistants at the South Dakota Developmental Center (SDDC) voted to join the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees, Council 65 (AFSCME Council 65). The vote caps an organizing drive by workers that began over a year ago. The tally in Tuesday night’s vote was 88 votes in favor of unionizing and 3 votes against. At the start of the campaign, former employee Paul Register resigned from his position and brought safety concerns at the facility into the public eye.
“My peers at SDDC led an employee union campaign for over a year,” said Register. “I’m a little awestruck at their determination. They stayed unified to have a voice for better safety measures for SDDC clients and staff.” In 2015, Register attempted to get the safety issues addressed by the State and ran into multiple roadblocks. “The only reason the State took steps to address safety problems was these issues were now in the public’s eye, but not enough has been done.” Register worked for SDDC for nearly a decade before resigning in January 2016 due to safety concerns.
…Next, the AFSCME-represented employees will nominate co-workers to establish their bargaining team to start negotiations. Their goal is to negotiate with SDDC to work towards a bilateral agreement. They would like the initial contract to address safety concerns, hours of work, overtime and other working conditions to ultimately maintain quality staff and improve SDDC services.
While the State Legislature sets the salaries of State Employees, the SDDC workers were determined to organize for improved safety protections for everyone. AFSCME Council 65 Labor Representative for South Dakota, Tim Hoss, commented “the union will also serve as a counter-balance to deal with other shortcomings related to safety. South Dakota is in the minority among U.S. States that that deny OSHA-approved safety plans for public employees” [AFSCME Council 65, press release, 2017.03.09].
Redfield workers recognize that collective bargaining can do them some good. Instead of finding strength in numbers, our vo-tech workers will now have to pray to the Invisible Hand or some other higher power not to nix their jobs.
The public kinda-sorta got to hear Paul Register’s complaints about misconduct by management at the South Dakota Developmental Center during a hearing of the Government Operations and Audit Committee in Redfield yesterday. Kinda sorta, because as Register, a former SDDC employee, laid out various problems arising from staff shortages, GOAC chairman Senator Larry Tidemann (R-7/Brookings) moved the discussion into executive session.
The hearing did reveal continued (and perhaps underreported) staff shortages at the Redfield facility:
The facility that cares for and teaches 132 developmentally and intellectually disabled children, teens and adults was understaffed by more than 10 percent as of Monday. There are 39 open spots, 29 of which are direct-care positions with the residents.
Susan Wismer, who will be returning to the Legislature next Session, said “something has to chance in that entire culture” to allow SDDC employees and other state workers “direct access to legislators without being punished for it.” Wismer and others interested in whistleblower protections should turn to Section 41 of Initiated Measure 22, the Anti-Corruption Act, which would direct the state ethics commission IM 22 creates to “maintain a telephone hotline as well as a website through which persons may anonymously report instances of corruption in state government.”
As with Indian Health Service and the state hospital in Yankton, and important part of improving conditions at the Developmental Center in Redfield is funding pay to recruit enough qualified workers to provide the required services. But another part of the solution is passing serious anti-corruption measures like IM 22.
Energy Partners, the Texas folks building this pipeline to move Bakken crude, planned to start laying pipe in Iowa, too, but Iowa’s state archaeologist John Doershuk just learned the Dakota Access Pipeline may run through some Indian graves:
State Archaeologist John Doershuk told The Des Moines Register that the Upper Sioux tribe has informed state officials about a historic and cultural site includes Indian graves in Lyon County.
“The mapping that the tribe has provided to me suggests that it is smack dab in to where the pipeline was proposed to go,” Doershuk said [William Petroski, “Tirbal Land Issues Block Bakken Pipeline in Iowa,” Des Moines Register, 2016.05.27].
Energy Transfer calls the information “rumors of a potential archaeological site,” but that rumored potential was enough for Iowa’s Department of Natural Resources to yank Energy Partners’ permit:
“Based on recent information provided by the State Archaeologist, a significant archaeological site (13LO335) was identified within the [Sioux River Wildlife Management Area] and may fall along the proposed path of the Dakota Access Pipeline,” James Hodgson, chief of wildlife and port fish restoration programs with the FWS, wrote Wednesday (see the documents embedded below). “Due to these recent developments the FWS is requesting that the DNR stop all tree clearing or any ground-disturbing activities within the pipeline corridor pending further investigation.”
In response to Hodgson’s letter, Seth Moore, environmental specialist with the Iowa DNR’s Conservation and Recreation Division, wrote Thursday: “This permit was issued for the construction, maintenance and operation of an underground pipeline across the Big Sioux River Wildlife Management Area (WMA). And this permit was conditioned upon approval by the USFWS. Because that approval has been revoked, Dakota Access, LLC is no longer authorized to engage in any activities pursuant to that permit.”
Energy Partners is already placing equipment and may already be digging holesThe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers says that moving and repermitting the pipeline route to avoid archaeological sites may take two to six months. That’s two to six months that opponents like the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe can use to continue their protest and look for a way to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline.
One of my apparently wealthy and well-briefed readers notes that RadWaste has been covering the Deep Borehole Field Test proposed for Spink County. An article published Friday by Karl Herchenroeder says that project contractor Battelle Memorial Institute, a science and technology development company based in Ohio, will include in its variance request to Spink County “a stipulation that the boreholes will be permanently sealed when the project is completed.” This stipulation responds to concerns expressed at public meetings two weeks ago that the holes drilled for this test might be used for disposal of nuclear waste. Battelle spokesman T.R. Massey tells Herchenroeder that requiring permanent sealing of the holes adds to the assurance of “public refusal, the proximity of an aquifer, state law, the lack of federal disposal framework and siting on private land” that placing nuclear waste in Spink County “can never happen.”
Citizens don’t have to gut this month’s paycheck to read that assurance; they can attend Battelle’s next public information meeting on Wednesday, May 11, at the Spink County Fairgrounds 4-H building, same site as the previous meeting:
The cast of characters will be mostly the same, with one important exception: instead of representatives from the School Mines, this meeting will feature someone from Governor Dennis Daugaard’s office. Folks at the last meeting groused at the absence of the Governor himself from a meeting this important, feeling the written statement from the Governor read at the meeting was not enough assurance that the Governor supported the project on the condition that it not involve nuclear materials. Wednesday will give Spink County residents the chance to look someone from Pierre in the eye and hear that assurance.
According to the commission’s agenda, the meeting starts at 8:30. After grinding through a couple hours of regular business—state’s atttorney’s update, sheriff’s discussion of fees for copies, a zoning request from Lance Fuhrman and Thomas Willie Dvorak to install ten RV hookups—the Spink County Commission will turn its attention to two Tulare residents who want to talk about the Deep Borehole Field Test. Jamie Fisk is slated to speak at 10:45 a.m. Deb Schultz is on at 11:00 a.m. Fisk opposes the project, according to KSFY.
It may be worth noting that the Spink County Commission showed itself willing to accommodate the environmentally hazardous Dakota Access Bakken oil pipeline with approval at its March 15 meeting of oversize hauling on its roads and ten applications from the pipeliners to occupy rights of way in the county. Dakota Access is also building a pumping station south of Redfield, which has won the favor of local officials with its promise of eight jobs. In the materials it circulated at last week’s public meetings in Tulare and Redfield, Battelle claims that it will spend about $1 million in and around Spink County during its five-year lease of private land for its drilling project and up to $10 million on materials and services statewide.
Say, on those RV hookups: I notice that the Spink County Commission’s last meeting included a request from Terry Clark, Brian McFadden, and Jamie Akin to install 12 RV utility hookups. Hmmm: what if Battelle has a secret plot to put their engineers in RVs for 90 days and gets them to vote to create their own science town, New Los Alamos?
To find out if the Spink County Commission is ready to take any position on the Deep Borehole Field Test, come to the meeting at the courthouse in Redfield tomorrow morning, with the good part starting at 10:45.
The most challenging part of this is the social aspect…. —Andy Griffith, U.S. Department of Energy,
on the Deep Borehole Field Test, 2016.04.28.
We may not have had the Governor in Redfield for last night’s public meeting on the Deep Borehole Field Test, but we did have a governor:
Harvey Wollman, who, among other things, governed our state for half a year, offered perhaps the calmest and most reasoned comments from the floor… and certainly the most statesmanlike. He spoke of the strong emotions evident in his neighbors’ questions and arguments. He spoke of the understandable fear roused by anything remotely associated with the word nuclear. Wollman said he doesn’t have a problem with the science of the Borehole project. However, he said that arable land is precious, and that “just invading it with a pipeline upsets me.” To overcome that emotion, Wollman said Battelle has to help his neighbors understand this project, understand the need for research on nuclear waste disposal, and understand that this project poses no danger to their sacred (Harvey used that word) land:
“Please understand the mood of my Spink County people here. They are not crazy, they are not irrational, they’re just protective of this beautiful area, and they are very cautious about it becoming something they do not want it to become,” he said.
Receiving equally vigorous applause was a woman who blamed the media for misinforming everyone about nuclear waste coming to Spink County, then said we should welcome this project because Redfield is dying. Redfield can’t recruit professionals, she said, only meth-heads who sponge off welfare. Applause.
Much of the rest of the two-hour-plus question-and-answer session had the experts from Battelle, the Department of Energy, and the School of Mines patiently repeating reasonable responses to people who came convinced that they couldn’t believe anything they heard anyway and who thus played Matlock or Erin Brockovich, mingling recitations of Web printouts with rapid-fire yes/no cross examinations, trying to box the witnesses into a lie.
DFP Friday Series on the Deep Borehole Field Test Meeting in Redfield:
Three key logical fallacies rose from the audience:
First, much nodding and affirmative rhubarb-in-the-suburbs greeted one woman who established the veracity of her opposition to the Borehole project by citing her status as a veteran and by noting the thickness of the stack of online articles she printed—I used up a whole printer cartridge! She read maybe a paragraph or two from those few dozen papers, then abandoned her rich paper-and-ink investment at her seat when she left. (When I glanced at the papers, I’m pretty sure a big chunk consisted of my comment section. Thank you for reading!)
Second, several members of the audience sought to paint the project leaders into a paradox. Opponents contended that it is impossible that anyone would ever drill this kind of deep borehole just for science, that Battelle and USDOE have to be doing it with an intent to place nuclear waste here. They then demanded that Battelle and DOE promise that they would do this project just for science. I’ll be generous and merely deem it tricky to say that the only way to prove one is not lying is to promise to do the impossible.
Third, the greatest rhetorical challenge of the evening was responding to opponents who said, “But how can you guarantee” that no one would ever bring nuclear waste to the Spink County Borehole site. Multiple times, the project backers explained the legal, regulatory, contractual, and natural factors that preclude the Department of Energy from placing nuclear waste in Spink County, and multiple times, folks in the audience basically dismissed those statements as meaningless. There’s no winning that argument.
“How are we going to stop them from coming in and putting in nuclear waste?” folks kept asking. USDOE’s Andy Griffith and Battelle’s Rod Osborne seemed to make the answer to that question pretty clear: the single best guarantee that the people of Redfield, Spink County, and South Dakota have against nuclear waste coming here against our will is our political will. The Office of Nuclear Energy has put on the record its consent-based siting policy. If no landowner will sign the five-year lease, if the county commission won’t grant the necessary zoning change and permit, if the people don’t want it, Battelle won’t drill. Even if Spink County permits the Borehole, the five-year contract will prohibit any nuclear activities and require that the hole is filled with cement and clay, and the only exception to that protection again depends on public support.
I understand the protectiveness of which Governor Wollman spoke. I love this state as much as he does, as much as Lana Greenfield does, as much as anyone else in the Spink County 4-H hall with us last night does. This land is sacred to me. (Why else would I spend an entire day writing about one plan to dig one hole in South Dakota bedrock?)
Also sacred to me is democracy. That’s where we find our guarantee. Instead of asking others to guarantee our government’s words, I recognize that we are our own best bulwark against government bullcrap. Our best response to the public servants backing the project is to say, “Thank you. We will take you at your words, and we will hold you to those words every day, forever. We will watch you. We will blog you. We will demand answers and action from you. And if you take any action we don’t want, we will protest and petition and vote and run you out of your offices to protect our sacred land.”
That social aspect of the project, the constant attention we must pay to public affairs to keep our government in line with our will, is harder than the geological and technological aspects of this remarkable and potentially useful engineering project… but no one said democracy is easy. We must overcome our mistrust of government by recalling that the government is us.
The Deep Borehole Field Test is not about putting nuclear waste in South Dakota. Batelle, Uncle Sam, and Governor Dennis Daugaard have told us so. We have their word. Our guarantee that they will keep their word is our democratic vigilance.
More than 120 people attended a public meeting at the Spink County 4-H building in Redfield last night to hear experts from Battelle, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and the United States Department of Energy discuss the Deep Borehole Field Test. The same experts held a similar informational meeting Wednesday evening in Tulare. Here’s the core of the company and government lines on why the Borehole will bring good science and no nuclear waste to South Dakota.
The gentlemen (I didn’t notice any ladies on the team) opened with a 30-minute presentation, beginning with Rodney Osborne, Battelle’s energy business line manager, followed by comments from Dr. Larry Stetler, professor of geology at Mines; and Andy Griffith, associate deputy assistant secretary for fuel cycle technologies in the Office of Nuclear Energy. The mostly inaudible dude at 13:30 is Jay Nopola of Rapid City-based consulting firm RESPEC.
The biggest concern Osborne tackled was the fear that the Deep Borehole Field Test opens the door to nuclear waste in South Dakota. Osborne said no way:
This project what it’s not is a nuclear waste disposal project. No nuclear waste involved in the project, no nuclear waste after the project. This is a science project only. The data that are gathered as part of this project will be used in many, many projects going forward over the next decade or more to understand this technology. So this isn’t a preparation for storing nuclear waste or disposing of nuclear waste in Spink County or anywhere else. It’s just developing the science and the understanding.
So why wouldn’t we put nuclear waste in Spink County? It’s not the right place. There’s an aquifer right above the granite where we’re looking to drill. That doesn’t make it good for nuclear waste disposal. That gets in the way of storing nuclear waste. What it does not get in the way of is us doing our test.
So why Spink County? Why do it? It’s the geology. Simply put, it’s the geology. Underneath Spink County is a very stable formation, more than two billion years old, that hasn’t been disturbed by volcanoes, hasn’t been disturbed by seismic, by earthquake, hasn’t been disturbed by anything else, so it’s very stable. It’s not broken up, so it’s a great place to drill [Rodney Osborne, public meeting on Deep Borehole Field Test, Redfield, South Dakota, 2016.04.28].
Osborne read what he said is a new statement from Governor Dennis Daugaard expressing support for the Borehole project, on the clear condition that the Energy Department holds to that promise not to bring nuclear waste to the field test site (yes, Osborne mispronounced Daugaard… but then so did one of the audience members who spoke in opposition to the project):
I have previously supported deep underground research at the Sanford Underground Research Facility in Lead and shale formations by the South Dakota School of Mines…. I support the Deep Borehole project in South Dakota because it furthers our state’s leadership in underground with no potential for that location to be used to store or dispose of nuclear waste. South Dakota is a recognized world leader in this underground research area, and I’m proud of our state and the opportunity it has for the potential to continue this legacy of scientific innovation [statement attributed to Governor Dennis Daugaard, read by Rodney Osborne, public meeting on DBFT, Redfield, SD, 2016.04.28].
Osborne acknowledged the mistrust he heard at the Tulare meeting of the promise that this Borehole project will not bring any nuclear waste to South Dakota. He said Spink County residents have lots of barriers between them and any conversion of this science project into a nuclear waste dump. South Dakota law requires the approval of the Governor for any nuclear waste disposal in our state (see SDCL 34-21.1.1). Battelle has to find a landowner willing to sign the five-year lease for the project—there is no talk of eminent domain. (Osborne said Battelle is talking with private landowners to host the project. Battelle declines to identify the landowners or specific sites.) Battelle also has to get zoning approval from the Spink County Commission. (Battelle will speak with the Spink County Commission next week Tuesday, on May 3.) Osborne and Griffith emphasized at many points that the project will not go forward without local support.
Griffith emphasized that the Energy Department has abandoned the top-down siting policy that he says led to the failure of the proposed Yucca Mountain nuclear waste site and is following a consent-based system. Griffith and Osborne both said that if the locals don’t want the Deep Borehole Field Test, not to mention future nuclear waste sites, the project will not happen there.
After the meeting, Griffith explained to Dakota Free Press another sign that his department and Battelle are not envisioning the Spink County Borehole site as a nuclear waste disposal site. In January 2016, the Nuclear Waste Technical Review Board recommended several changes to the Deep Borehole Field Test, including the digging of multiple boreholes to provide better characterization of the rock. Griffith said that recommendation makes sense for testing a site for actual waste disposal. But Griffith says the Deep Borehole Field Test will dig only one, maybe two holes, just to test the technology. If DOE had any inkling of sinking nuclear waste in Spink County, they’d have Battelle punch all sorts of wholes in the test site.
But that’s not in the plan. Battelle will spend six to eight months drilling the hole, then eight to ten months testing it. The remainder of the five-year lease is a window for further science, but not the pre-drilling of a waste disposal complex. Battelle’s contract allows the drilling of a second hole, but at the end of the project, all drilling will be refilled to the brim with cement and clay layers. The contract includes an option for the state to request to use the site for further scientific research, but only with the consent of all stakeholders, including the Energy Department, which would have to approve the transfer of this federal asset to the local community.
That January 2016 NWTRB report notes that the United Kingdom and Sweden have investigated borehole disposal but decided to stick with mined geologic disposal sites à la Yucca Mountain. Griffith told Dakota Free Press that while Sweden is sticking with mined geological disposal, the U.K. is very interested in USDOE’s proposed research. Griffith says that borehole disposal may be more viable now than when the British reviewed it thanks to advances in drilling and sealing technology brought to us by the oil and gas industry.
If the Deep Borehole Field Test succeeds, existing federal regulations still don’t allow dumping nuclear waste in really deep holes. Part of the point of the Deep Borehole Field Test is to gather the data necessary to inform the regulations that the Energy Department would have to compose for borehole waste sites. The more data we gather here and in future experiments, the safer we can make those future regulations.
Griffith says the borehole concept, if proven viable by this initial research, and if authorized and regulated by the federal government, will not take care of all of America’s nuclear waste:
Our nation is facing a major challenge in finding a solution for disposing nuclear waste, high-level waste and spent nuclear fuel. This project isn’t going dispose of all of that waste that has been generated, or this concept, this technology. But what it might do is it might offer a solution for some small inventories of high-level waste that was produced from the Defense program, those programs that established our strategic stockpiles and essentially helped us win the Cold War. This material is a fairly small portion of the inventory, but if this concept is proven to be successful, there may be a community out there that would be willing to host a disposal facility. But they could only host that disposal facility if the information shows that this concept is feasible, that it could work. And so we’re here to test that theory that it could work in a non-radioactive manner [Andy Griffith, USDOE, Redfield meeting, 2016.04.28].
T.R. Massey, former journalist turned media relations specialist for Battelle, underscored the point that borehole research isn’t about burying nuclear waste from power generation. Borehole disposal, says Massey, is about finally disposing of the fission by-products of nuclear weapons development all the way back to Oppenheimer.Massey says his borehole research gives the United States an opportunity to lead the world in solving one critical portion of the nuclear waste problem at significantly less cost than the billions poured into Yucca Mountain, which President Obama shut down in 2011 before it could store any nuclear waste.
Massey underscored what Osborne and Griffith said about public buy-in: positive public perception and welcome is vital to the Deep Borehole Field Test. Toward that end, Battelle plans to hold more meetings in Spink County to “look people in the eye and tell them the truth. He says the people of Spink County, not Battelle, will ultimately decide whether to press the “Go” button. Massey says Spink County has “great” geology for the Borehole, but if locals don’t welcome the project, Battelle has other sites available.
Massey wouldn’t name those other sites, and as noted above, Battelle won’t name the Spink County landowners with whom they are talking. Aside from that reticence, Massey said Battelle plans to be “completely transparent,” “open” and “truthful” with the public.
Such were the company and government lines presented to the Redfield crowd last night. In an upcoming post today, I’ll discuss how those lines went over. (Hint: think atomic number 82… and EB-5!)
Battelle Memorial Institute, the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology, and the U.S. Department of Energy are hosting an informational meeting about the Deep Borehole Field Test in Tulare tonight. I’m planning to attend their roadshow at the Spink County Fairgrounds 4-H building in Redfield tomorrow night starting at 6 p.m.
I’ll ask the experts at tomorrow night’s meeting to confirm their intentions for our good ground. Readers, if you have questions, come to Redfield and ask them tomorrow night… or submit them in the comment section below!
Paul Register contacted the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees in Minnesota to arrange two meetings for employees at the center in Redfield.
“I want the employees of SDDC to have better protection from the administration that has treated them so shamefully,” Register said Tuesday. “The state tries to control how the employees see, think and feel. I just want them to know the voice that needs to be heard, most of all, is their (employee’s) own.”
Register said the developmental center’s administration does not provide the same fair treatment to all the employees. He has brought the issues to the South Dakota Department of Human Services through letters and a petition that garnered 84 employee signatures hoping that something would be done.
…“They (the administration) protect who they want to,” Register said. “In my original letter to division secretary Gloria Pearson, I referred to how SDDC is divided by factions — the untouchables and the expendables. And everybody knows who is who out there. It’s not secret” [Shannon Marvel, “Developmental Center Unionizing Meeting Slated for Feb. 11,” Aberdeen American News, 2016.02.04].
Marvel reports AFSCME rep Nathan Rham will host two meetings next Thursday to discuss what Developmental Center employees could get from unionizing. Both meetings happen at the Wesleyan Church in Redfield, 102 E. 10th Ave., at 12:30 p.m. and 5:00 p.m.
Unions exist to allow workers to check the power of owners and bosses. That check is all the more important in a small town and a small state where all the bosses, especiall know each other and can easily block troublemakers from finding other employment. Strengthening our public employee unions (which Initiated Measure 23, the fair-share law, would do!) and thus empowering public employes to call out their bosses for bad actions is one component of a comprehensive strategy for making South Dakota government more honest and responsive to the needs of its employees and its citizens.